Words by Eddie STATS Houghton
As Jamaican artists combine their auto-tune production values and post-BET influences into a sound that is increasingly JA rap or Island Pop, it seems like the rest of the world is rediscovering good, old-fashioned reggae. The mainstream has always taken inspiration from Jamaica in periodic bursts, whether represented in the 80s by the Police, UB40 and Culture Club or in the 90s by No Doubt or Snow. But the current burst seems doubly ironic considering that both reggae beats and soundsystem culture seem to be on the wane in their home territory–just as they’re catching on again abroad.
Two cases in point: “Man Down” from Rihanna’s new LP Loud and the Diplo-produced “Dancehall Queen” from Swedish poptart Robyn. First Rihanna:
Rihanna, “Man Down” Loud (via Boomshots)[audio:http://largeup.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/RihannaManDown.mp3|titles=RihannaManDown]
We’ve known that Bajan-born Rihanna was a dancehall fan from jump (partly cause our dude Max Glazer was her tour DJ) but it seems like with “Rudeboy” and now this new cut, she has finally broken free from the handlers who were trying to craft an all-American image for her and kept her away from interviews that might reveal her West Indian accent. This latest return to Caribbean waters has already generated some backlash from Jamaican producers, who never love to see pop artists cash in on their hard work–but truth be told it’s good. Goose-bumps good, actually, out-Tanya-ing Tanya Stephens with a combination of solid songwriting, edgy rhythm and “Bad Boys” subject matter. (Just one question though: how do you shoot a man down if you “didn’t mean to hurt him?”)
Robyn, “Dancehall Queen” (via Mad Decent):
Diplo’s revenge on Rihanna for the blatant MIA-isms of the “Rudeboy” video? Possibly. But a healthy dose of Scandinavian pop reggae ala Ace of Bass and an equally blatant reference to Abba’s “Dancing Queen” transforms the in-joke into a girl-power, getting-ready-to-go-clubbing-anthem. Now what?